EU ProSun survey finds EU solar installers open to keeping trade barriers against China

As the internal dispute between different interested parties within the EU over trade barriers against Chinese PV companies continues, SolarWorld’s close ally EU ProSun finds that the majority of solar installers within the EU support the continuation of the trade barriers, provided that the Chinese companies are proved to be violating international law. The survey also found that a majority of the installers saw cuts in solar feed-in tariffs (FIT) across EU nations as a crucial cause of the slowdown in the European solar market.

The trade barriers at the center of the dispute are a minimum import price (MIP) and anti-dumping and anti-subsidiary measures, which were introduced against Chinese PV manufacturers in 2013. German solar manufacturer SolarWorld was centrally involved in the introduction of the measures, which have been opposed by various other solar organizations on the continent.

EU ProSun considers extension of the trade measures

This latest survey, conducted by Europressedienst on behalf of EU ProSun, a SolarWorld-backed organization whose president Milan Nitzschke is also the vice president of the German firm, had participants from 524 solar installers from all 28 EU member states. It found that the majority of these installers, whose installed power output accounts for 8% of the European solar market, are in favor of extending the trade measures, if an investigation by the EU Commission establishes that the Chinese producers are violating international trade law.

“We wanted to clarify whether the assertion made by the lobby organization of big Chinese producers and their importers is valid, that the European solar installers prefer a termination of the measures against Chinese solar dumping,” commented Milan Nitzschke. “The opposite is the case. The clear majority supports an extension of the duties and minimum important prices (MIP’s), which makes sense because they do not feel the measures have negatively affected their business.”

The survey also looked to investigate the causes of a clear slowdown in the European solar market. The majority of the respondents indicated that cuts to FITs were to blame. In fact, 88.8% of respondents saw the cuts to FITs across European countries as a significant cause for the slowdown in the EU solar market, while two thirds of respondents said that the taxation of self-consumed solar power was another reason for the decline.

EU ProSun saw the responses of the participants as justification for the assertion that solar installers in Europe were not negatively affected by trade law developments, but instead by ‘unstable political framework conditions.’ It also noted that 60.7% of the participants have observed a solar module price reduction in the EU market, despite the introduction of the trade measures.

A case for dropping the barriers

In July, a letter signed by 34 European solar power and renewable energy organizations put forward the case to end trade measures on Chinese PV companies. The SolarPower Europe solar trade association led the consortium, which asked European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstrom to drop the trade barriers immediately.

The letter said that the measures are counterproductive and actually have a negative impact on the solar industry in Europe, along the whole value chain. It says that the measures are making solar more expensive in Europe, which is affecting the entire value chain and making solar less competitive.

With these two vastly differencing positions within the debate, it is difficult to know who is accurately representing the European solar industry. EU ProSun has often acted as the mouthpiece for SolarWorld, who is clearly in support of the continuation of the trade measures, and this survey might appear subjective for that reason. The European Commission must make a recommendation on the measures at the beginning of 2017, so it will be weighing up the validity of the evidence that is presented to it.